Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Be Careful Not To Repeat Words

This woman looks puzzled and why not? She might have written a great story or essay but there are so many little things to be checked on before she can think of submitting to an editor.

One of the little things I notice when I critique the submissions in my online writing group is the unconscious repetition of words. We all do it--especially in first drafts.

Example:

Susie punched the time clock and hurried down the narrow hallway to her workspace. Her workspace was a jumbled mess but it was hers to do with whatever she wanted. At least, she told herself that whenever guilt threatened to creep in. She could scatter papers all over this workspace as long as she could sort things out enough to get her work done.

Better:

Susie punched the time clock and hurried down the narrow hallway to her workspace. The small area was a jumbled mess but it was hers to do with whatever she wanted. At least, she told herself that whenver guilt threatened to creep in. She could scatter papers all over the desk as long as she could sort things out enough to complete her assignments.

Repeating words when we write is part laziness and part not paying close attention. It's often done in a first draft because we're concentrating on the story we're writing. That's the star of this production. When we edit our work, we should consciously look for possible repetition of words. Read the example paragraph aloud. The work/workspace repetitions become a bit tedious, a little boring.

If you notice that you've used one words two or three times in one or two paragraphs, do something about it. Rephrase to use other words that get the same meaning across to the reader.

Pronouns are almost always repeated and it's not easy to get around that. One thing you can do is to use the proper name (Susie) in some parts and the pronoun (she) in others. Be careful not to start multiple consecutive sentences with She... If you write a paragraph that has six sentences in it and five begin with She...it turns out to be pretty boring. You might have to rearrange some of the sentences to correct that problem.

The repeating of words is a very small thing in the great world of writing and submitting your work. Even so, too many little items done poorly will result in multiple rejections. Write a great story but also concentrate on the little parts that make the mechancs of your writing impressive, too.

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